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London Welcomes Back The NFL, At Last

The National Football League is back in London! Feels good, doesn't it?
By Gary Jordan
Published on October 5, 2021

Jets Falcons Helmets PHOTO: ROMEL BIRCH / NFL

It has been a long time since we have seen football roll into London town, and even with the curtailed number of games this year it is great that the trust is there amongst all the Covid restrictions to hold games on these shores again. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London will host the two games that have been scheduled for this season, and this could be the trend going forward given that it is purpose-built. Many will miss the familiarity of Wembley, the traditional home for NFL games since they started promoting the sport here in the early 1980s. When the new Tottenham Stadium held games two years ago it was a huge success.

This Sunday, October 10, the New York Jets will play the Atlanta Falcons. Both teams have won only once in their opening four games this season, and whoever ends up with the victory this weekend could see it as a springboard to better things. It might not propel them to a winning season, or a playoff run, but it would serve as a decent building block. Especially for the Jets who have suffered more than most teams in recent years.

They had their first win of 2021 last Sunday, a hard fought but fully merited one. They beat the Tennessee Titans 27-24 after a tense overtime period. This was a first win for Head Coach Robert Saleh, and for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, who threw for 297 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson said, "It was awesome. The ups and downs, it was a crazy win. What an awesome game. I'm so pumped we got away from it with a W, but we have to keep learning and keep getting better. Its awesome to keep learning from a win though."

As much as Wilson's play excelled, his coach heaped praise on his defence, "Stats don't do justice what they've been able to accomplish at all three levels. The D-line was outstanding, the linebackers were outstanding, the young DB's, play after play." Saleh got a Gatorade shower on the sidelines, something you usually only see after a Championship win, but it could be forgiven on this occasion. The Jets deserve something after being the punchline of many NFL jokes over the years.

While the Jets arrive here on a high, looking to back up the win, the Falcons are licking their wounds after a tough loss against Washington, 34-30. Cordarrelle Patterson has always been a big playmaker and has shown glimpses of that in the early part of the season, but in this loss he had his most productive game, catching five passes for 82 yards, scoring three touchdowns, as well as rushing for 34 yards on six carries and 78 more yards gained on three kick-off returns. His veteran quarterback, Matt Ryan, said of Patterson, "He's played extremely well. He's made plays for us in the run game and the pass game, he impacts the game in so many different ways. I'm glad we have him."

Atlanta was looking to build on a win the previous week, to keep them in contention in the NFC South, now they face an uphill task in their pursuit of Tampa Bay and Carolina, so a win in London will be most welcome. First year Head Coach Arthur Smith said, "Obviously frustrating, we had multiple opportunities to win that game [against Washington]. We didn't."

When planning you can never predict how teams' fortunes will be, and so it is again that a London game will not have a match between two teams with a winning record. It would be fair to say that if this game were being played in the States it would be a hard sell but given the absence of two years and the craving to watch live football with friends and other fans, this game has once again sold out. Both teams will arrive later this week, both having had a taste of what to expect before. The Jets beat Miami Dolphins 27-14 at Wembley in 2015, with Atlanta losing on a last second field goal a year earlier.

The last time the two sides met was in 2017, with the Falcons coming away from New York with a 25-20 win.

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